Return to: Index of "Travel Information" || Index of "Consular and Travel Information" || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

U.S. Department of State 
95/06 Tips for Travelers to South Asia 
Bureau of Consular Affairs 
                       Tips for Travelers to South Asia 
         Table of Contents 
General Information.....................................1 
Consular Information Program............................1 
Visa and Other Entry Requirements.......................2 
Currency  and Customs Regulations.......................2 
Shopping for Antiques...................................2 
U.S. Wildlife Regulations...............................2 
Country Information 
   Sri Lanka............................................5 
Foreign Embassies in the United States..................5 
U.S. Embassies and Consulates Abroad....................6 
Planning Another Trip?..................................7 
Bureau of Consular Affairs 
Revised June 1995 
The information in this publication is in the public domain and may be 
reproduced without permission.  When this material is reproduced, the 
Department of State would appreciate receiving a copy at:  CA/P/PA, 
Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-4818. 

                         Tips for Travelers to South Asia 
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and 
Sri Lanka 
General Information 
Your trip to South Asia can be a rich and rewarding experience.  There 
are ancient cultures and artistic traditions to appreciate and a wealth 
of natural wonders to see -- all co-existing with modern societies.  
However, the customs and local conditions can be as distant from home as 
the miles, and travelers should plan their trips carefully. 
Consular Information Program 
For travel information on any country, see the Department of State's 
Consular Information Sheet for the country.  Consular Information Sheets 
cover such matters as health conditions, unusual currency and entry 
regulations, crime and security conditions, drug penalties, and areas of 
instability.  In addition, the State Department issues Travel Warnings 
when we recommend Americans defer  travel to a country because of unsafe 
conditions.  Regulations may also prohibit the use of U.S. passports to 
visit certain countries.  This prohibition will be included in the 
Travel Warnings issued for affected countries.  Travel Warnings are 
under continuous review by the Department of State.  Before you depart 
for a country that has a Travel Warning, make certain that you have the 
most recent revision of the Warning.  The Department of State also 
issues Public Announcements.  Public Announcements are issued as a means 
to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other 
relatively short-term and/or trans-national conditions which would pose 
significant risks to the security of American travelers.  
There are several ways to access Consular Information Sheets, Travel 
Warnings and Public Announcements.  You can listen to them 24-hours a 
day by calling 202-647-5225 from a touchtone phone.  You can receive 
copies of them by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Overseas 
Citizens Services, Room 4800, Department of State, Washington, DC  
20520-4818.  (Write the name of the requested country or countries on 
the outside of the envelope.)  You can also find Consular Information 
Sheets and Travel Warnings at the 13 regional passport agencies and at 
U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.  They can also be accessed through 
an airline or travel agent's computer reservation system, the Bureau of 
Consular Affairs'  24- hour automated fax system at 202/647-3000, or 
through many computer bulletin boards, including the Consular Affairs 
Bulletin Board (CABB).  You may call the CABB on modem number 202-647-
9225.  Set your communications software to: no parity, 8 bits, one stop 
bit (N-8-1). 
Travelers to areas where conditions are unsettled or communication is 
poor are encouraged to register at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate 
(see list at end of book).  All travelers are encouraged to leave a 
detailed itinerary and their passport numbers at home in case of an 
If you have a choice, winter is the best time to visit most areas of 
South Asia.  South of the Himalayas, South Asian weather is warm to very 
hot.  Hot, humid regions like Bangladesh and central, eastern, and 
southern India are somewhat more comfortable in December through 
February.  Hot, dry regions like Pakistan and northern India have 
pleasant weather from October to March, with the winter months cool 
enough for light woolens.  The worst weather in the dry regions, when 
heat and dust can make sight-seeing or other outdoor activity a chore, 
is during the pre-monsoon period from approximately April through mid-
In the United States, local health departments, the Centers for Disease 
Control & Prevention (CDC), private doctors, and travel clinics can 
provide information on health precautions for travelers to South Asia.  
Depending on your destination, immunization is recommended against 
cholera, diphtheria/tetanus, hepatitis, Japanese B encephalitis, 
meningitis, polio, and typhoid.  Drug prophylaxis against malaria may 
also be necessary.  General guidance may also be found in the booklet, 
Health Information for International Travel, which is available for $7 
from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC  20402, or from 
local, or state health departments.  The CDC has an international 
travelers hotline that can be reached at 404-332-4559.  
Travelers should be careful to drink only boiled water (bottled water is 
not always safe) or bottled drinks, to avoid ice cubes in beverages and 
unpeeled fruits and vegetables, to take precautions against mosquitoes, 
and to guard against overexertion at high altitudes.  Trekkers and 
mountain climbers, in particular, should take precautions to avoid 
frostbite, hypothermia, and altitude sickness.  The latter two can be 
fatal if not detected in time.  Modern health facilities are not always 
available, particularly in rural areas.  Prospective travelers should 
review their health insurance policies to see if they provide coverage 
while overseas, including medical evacuation service. 
Visas and Other Entry Requirements 
A U.S. passport is required for travel to all countries in the region.  
Most South Asian countries also require entry visas.  Travel to certain 
areas of many South Asian countries is restricted and special permits 
may be required for these areas in addition to the entry visa.  
Prospective travelers should contact the embassy or consulate of the 
country they plan to visit for specific information (see list of foreign 
embassies at end of book). 
All South Asian countries require travelers who have been in yellow-
fever infected areas within the last six days to show valid yellow-fever 
immunization certificates.  Yellow fever is found in some African and 
some Latin American countries.  If you plan to travel from Africa or 
Latin America directly to South Asia, check with the embassy of the 
South Asian country where you are going to see if a yellow-fever 
certificate is required.  If the certificate is required and you do not 
have it, you will be refused entry unless you are inoculated and kept in 
quarantine for up to six days.   
Currency and Customs Regulations 
Most South Asian countries require that foreign currency and valuables 
be declared upon entry as a means of enforcing restrictions on the 
importation of items such as gold, electronic equipment, firearms, and 
prescription drugs.  Failure to make an accurate declaration or other 
violations of these restrictions can lead to high fines and/or 
Shopping for Antiques 
Most South Asian countries have strict regulations against the 
unlicensed export of antiquities.  Items that are antique, or even 
appear to be, may be confiscated by customs officials unless the 
traveler has proof of authorization from the appropriate government 
office to export the antique, or proof that the item is not an antique.  
U.S. Wildlife Regulations 
The United States prohibits importation of Asian ivory because Asian 
elephants are an endangered species.  Most lizardskin and many snakeskin 
products cannot be brought into the United States.  The penalty for 
importing products derived from endangered species is seizure of the 
product and a substantial fine.   

Country Information 
The Department of State warns all U.S. citizens against travel to 
Afghanistan.  Afghanistan is a developing, Islamic country presently in 
the midst of a civil war.  Fighting and indiscriminate rocket attacks, 
aerial bombardments, and other violence can occur without warning.  Land 
mines are prevalent throughout the countryside.  All U.S. personnel at 
the U.S. Embassy in Kabul were evacuated on January 31, 1989, and no 
other diplomatic mission represents U.S. interest or provides consular 
services.  The nearest U.S. Embassy is in Islamabad, Pakistan.  
Because of safety and security concerns arising from the civil war in 
Afghanistan, all U.S.  airlines and aircraft operators are prohibited by 
the Federal Aviation Administration from overflying Afghanistan. 

No visa is required for a tourist stay of up to two weeks if you have an 
onward ticket; all business travelers must have visas, however.  
Bangladesh is an Islamic country, and visitors should dress modestly -- 
shorts are considered inappropriate.   
Crime is a serious problem in Dhaka.  Foreigners have not been 
especially targeted, but are often the victims of crime.  Travelers 
should also be wary of and give a wide berth to politically-based street 
agitation, protests, and general strikes.  These can flare into random 
violence without warning and result in attacks on nearby persons and 
Travelers should pay special attention to preventive health measures 
because medical facilities, especially in rural areas, are not always 
available.  River ferries are necessary for travel throughout much of 
Bangladesh, but travelers should exercise caution when using them.  
Accidents frequently occur from overcrowding and from hazardous 
navigation during poor weather.  Trekkers may not go to the Chittagong 
Hill Tracts, which are off-limits to foreigners. 

Kingdom of Bhutan 
While Bhutan and the United States do not have formal diplomatic 
relations, informal contact is maintained through the U.S. Embassy in 
New Delhi, India.  Restrictions on tourism to Bhutan have been relaxed 
recently.  Tourists are no longer limited to traveling in organized 
groups; however independent travelers must book through a travel agency.  
Visas must be requested in advance and are stamped on arrival in Bhutan.  
Entry must be via Bangladesh, India or Nepal.  The border with China is 
closed.  For information, contact Bhutan Travel Inc., 120 East 56th 
Street, Suite 1130, New York, NY 10022 (tel. 212-838-6382). 

India is the South Asian country most frequently visited by U.S. 
citizens.  Visas must be obtained before arrival.  Persons arriving 
without visas must leave on the next plane.  If you plan to travel from 
India to Nepal or another country and return to India, be sure to 
request a multiple entry visa.  Tourist visas are issued for a maximum 
of 90 days.  Once in India, visitors who wish to extend their stay must 
apply to a Foreigners Regional Registration Office.  Extensions, if 
granted, may not bring the total visit to more than six months.   
Customs regulations prohibiting the importation of gold or Indian 
currency, and regulating importation of electronics, foreign currency, 
and firearms are strictly enforced.  Offenders of these regulations may 
be jailed, fined and/or charged duty at rates exceeding 300 percent of 
the item's value.  Laws against drug smuggling carry heavy penalties, 
including a ten-year prison term. 
Political or communal and inter-caste violence occurs intermittently in 
many parts of the country.  Major civil disturbances can pose risks to a 
traveler's personal safety and can disrupt transportation systems and 
city services.  In response to communal violence, Indian authorities may 
occasionally impose curfews.  Foreigners have rarely been the targets of 
communal or political violence in India, and are principally at risk of 
becoming inadvertent victims only if they stray into demonstrations.  
Whether dangerous or not, many areas of India have been declared off-
limits to foreigners by the Indian authorities.  Permits are required 
for:  Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, Arunachal 
Pradesh, Sikkim, parts of Kulu District and Spiti District of Himachal 
Pradesh, border areas of Jammu and Kashmir, certain areas of Uttar 
Pradesh, the area west of National Highway No. 5 running from Ganganagar 
to Sanchar in Rajasthan, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Union 
Territory of the Laccadive Islands.  Persons of Indian origin can 
usually obtain permits to visit relatives in restricted areas.  Other 
visitors may have to wait a long time for a permit or be unable to 
obtain one.  Consult the latest Department of State Consular Information 
Sheet on which areas are restricted.  Once in India, consult the U.S. 
Embassy or the nearest U.S. consulate for information on restricted 
areas and advice on obtaining permits to visit them.  None of the 
popular tourist sites in India are in restricted areas.  

Republic of Maldives 
The islands of the Maldives have long been popular vacation sites.  
Diplomatic relations are maintained and consular services are provided 
through the U.S. Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  In emergencies, there 
is a U.S. consular agent on the capital island of Male (for address, ask 
at a resort or hotel) who can help travelers communicate with the U.S. 
Embassy in Colombo.  A no-fee visa for a tourist visit of up to 30 days 
is issued upon arrival at the airport.  Foreign currency may be taken in 
or out of the Maldives without restriction.  Pork foodstuffs and alcohol 
may not be imported. 

Nepal is a popular adventure tourism destination; over 20,000 Americans 
visit Nepal each year.  A tourist visa valid for up to 60 days is issued 
at ports of entry upon arrival.  Visas can be routinely extended in 
Kathmandu and Pokhara for stays of up to four months; a fifth month 
requires special approval.  Penalties for overstaying a visa may include 
fines and imprisonment.  Nepalese customs laws, particularly those 
forbidding smuggling of drugs, gold, and foreign currency, are strictly 
enforced.  The penalty for smuggling is a stiff fine and/or a prison 
sentence.  Travelers should take adequate funds in the form of travelers 
checks.  It is difficult to obtain additional funds through bank 
transfers and, except at major Kathmandu hotels, credit cards are rarely 
Trekking is very popular in Nepal.  Tourists are cautioned to obtain a 
trekking permit from the Central Immigration Office, to avoid trekking 
alone, to be alert for signs of altitude sickness, and to obtain a 
meningococcal meningitis vaccination if trekking outside the Kathmandu 
Valley.  Those wishing to climb the high peaks should write for 
permission to the Ministry of Tourism to the attention of the 
mountaineering division, well in advance of planned expeditions.  
Travelers should note that there are no forms of international 
communication in rural areas.  In the event of an emergency, the U.S. 
Embassy may assist Americans in contacting family or friends. 
Americans planning to travel from Nepal to Tibet should be aware that 
Chinese authorities strictly regulate such trips.  Additional 
information is contained in the Consular Information Sheet on China and 
in Tips for Travelers to the People's Republic of China.  Travelers can 
also contact the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu for current information on 
the status of the border crossing points. 

In March 1995,  a shuttle carrying employees of the U.S. Consulate 
General in Karachi was attacked by unknown assailants.  Two American 
employees were killed.  At the time of publication, the State Department 
had no knowledge of any specific credible threats to U.S. citizens.  
However, all travelers are urged to exercise prudent security 
precautions.  Sectarian and factional violence has increased in 
Pakistan.  Karachi remains the center of politically-motivated killings.  
During the Islamic religious observances of Ramadan and Moharram (the 
exact date for each holiday varies each year), sectarian rivalry and 
violence often increase.   
A visa must be obtained before arrival; travelers should specifically 
request multiple-entry visas, and must obtain an exit permit if they 
stay more than 30 days.  Pakistan is an Islamic country, and visitors 
must respect Islamic standards of behavior.  Travelers (especially 
women) should dress modestly, i.e., wear clothes with high necks and 
long sleeves and not wear shorts.  Woman are advised not to travel alone 
in rural areas.  The import, manufacture, and consumption of alcohol or 
drugs are strictly forbidden.  Major hotels have special rooms where 
non-Islamic foreigners may buy and drink alcoholic beverages.  In March 
1994, legislation was passed which made drug trafficking punishable by 
A special permit is required for travel to the tribal areas bordering 
Afghanistan, including the Khyber Pass, and to Azad Kashmir.  Persons 
traveling to restricted areas without a permit are subject to arrest.  
Onward overland travel to India is difficult because of border crossing 
restrictions (see Consular Information Sheet for India). 
Major cities in Pakistan are safe for tourists, but travel to remote 
rural areas, especially in Balochistan, Sindh and the Northwest Frontier 
Province is not recommended.  Security conditions vary; some areas are 
only considered safe for daytime travel in groups.  Because the security 
situation can change with little warning, visitors should check at the 
U.S. Embassy in Islamabad or the nearest U.S. consulate for up-to-date 
travel information. 

Sri Lanka 
The insurgency of Tamil separatists against the government in Sri Lanka 
(formerly Ceylon) has caused tension and violence within the country.  
For this reason, the Sri Lankan defense regulations restrict travel to 
much of the island's northern areas.  Areas such as Wilpattu and Galoya 
National Parks are considered especially unsafe.  There have been 
isolated incidents of violence in other parts of Sri Lanka, including 
Colombo.  Because public transportation has often been targeted by 
terrorists, travel on trains and public buses should be avoided.  Travel 
to the major tourist sites in the southern and western parts of the 
island has usually been safe.  However, security conditions throughout 
the country can change quickly, and travelers should get current 
information from the latest travel advisory or from the U.S. Embassy in 
Colombo.  No visa is required for a tourist stay of up to 90 days. 
Medical facilities in Sri Lanka are limited.  Malaria is prevalent in 
many areas outside of Colombo.  

                      Foreign Embassies in the United States 
Embassy of Afghanistan 
2341 Wyoming Ave., N.W. 
Washington, DC  20008 
(202) 234-3770 
Embassy of Bangladesh 
2201 Wisconsin Ave., N.W. 
Washington, DC  20007 
(202) 342-8373 
Bhutan Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY 10017 
(212) 826-1919 
Embassy of India 
2536 Massachusetts Ave., N.W. 
Washington, DC  20008 
(202) 939-9839 
Republic of Maldives Mission 
to the United Nations 
820 Second Avenue, Suite 800C 
New York, NY 10017 
(212) 599-6195 
Embassy of Nepal 
2131 Leroy Place, N.W. 
Washington, DC  20008 
(202) 657-4550 
Embassy of Pakistan 
2315 Massachusetts Ave., N.W. 
Washington, DC  20008 
(202) 939-6200 
Embassy of Sri Lanka 
2148 Wyoming Ave., N.W. 
Washington, DC  20008 
(202) 483-4025 

                    U.S. Embassies and Consulates Abroad 
             Note:  Workweek is Monday-Friday except where noted. 
AFGHANISTAN:  (see Pakistan) 
BANGLADESH  (workweek:  Sunday-Thursday) 
American Embassy 
Diplomatic Enclave 
Madani Ave., Baridhara 
GPO Box 323, Dhaka 1212 
Dhaka, Bangladesh 
Tel:  (880-2) 884700-22  
Fax:  (880-2) 883-744 
U.S. Embassy 
Shanti Path 
Chanakyapuri 110021 
New Delhi, India 
Tel: (91-11) 600651 
Fax: (91-11) 687-2028 
American Consulate General 
Lincoln House 
78 Bhulabhai Desai Rd. 400026 
Bombay, India 
Tel:  (91-22) 363-3611 
Fax:  (91-22) 363-0350 
American Consulate General 
5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani 700071 
Calcutta, India 
Tel:  (91-33) 242-3611 thru 15 
Fax:  (91-33) 242-2335 
American Consulate General 
Mount Rd., 600006 
Madras, India 
Tel:  (91-44) 826-3040 or 827-7542 
Fax:  (91-44) 826-3407 
MALDIVES (See Sri Lanka) 
American Embassy 
Pani Pokhari 
Kathmandu, Nepal 
Tel:  (977-1) 411179, 412718, 410531 or 413836 
Fax:  (977-1) 419963 
PAKISTAN  (workweek:  Sunday-Thursday) 
American Embassy 
Diplomatic Enclave 
Ramna 5 
Islamabad, Pakistan 
Tel:  (92-51) 826-161 thru 79 
Fax:  (92-51) 214-222 
American Consulate General 
8 Abdullah Haroon Rd. 
Karachi, Pakistan 
Tel:  (92-21) 568-5170 (afterhours 568-1606) 
Fax:  (92-21) 568-3089 
American Consulate General 
50 Sharah-E-Bib Badees (50 Empress Rd.) 
Simal Hills Lahore K 
Lahore, Pakistan 
Tel:  (92-42) 636-5530 thru 39 
Fax:  (92-42) 636-5177 
American Consulate 
11 Hospital Road 
Peshawar Cantonment 
Peshawar, Pakistan 
Tel:  (92-521) 279-801 or 803 
Fax:  (92-521) 276-712 
American Embassy 
210 Galle Rd. (P.O. Box 106)  
Colombo 3 
Colombo, Sri Lanka 
Tel:  (94-1) 448007 
Fax:  (94-1) 437345 

                             Planning Another Trip? 
*For general travel information, the following publications may be 
ordered for $1 each from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. 
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402; tel:  202-512-1800. 
Your Trip Abroad  ($1.25) 
A Safe Trip Abroad  
Tips for Americans Residing Abroad 
Travel Tips for Older Americans  
*Copies of the following publications in this series are also available 
for $1 each from the U.S. Government Printing Office: 
Tips for Travelers to the Caribbean 
Tips for Travelers to Central and South America 
Tips for Travelers to the People's Republic of China 
Tips for Travelers to Mexico 
Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and  North Africa  ($1.50) 
Tips for Travelers to  Russia  and  the Newly Independent States 
Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa  ($1.50) 
General visa information for these and other countries is available in 
Foreign Entry Requirements.  Information on how, when and where to apply 
for your U.S passport is available in Passports:   Applying for Them the 
Easy Way.  Both publications may be ordered for  50 cents each from the 
Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, Colorado 81009. 
*Prices and availability are subject to change without notice.  Please 
check with the Government Printing Office for more information. 
To the top of this page